It all started with a feral cat named Lazarus.

Sandra DiTusa

Sandra DiTusa

One day, in 2003, the son of biologist and animal-lover, Sandra Feuer DiTusa, discovered a sickly orange tabby cat cowering near their house during a thunderstorm. Skin and bones, Sandra quickly brought the little guy inside, where she and her family nursed “Lazarus” back to health over the following weeks. Vitality restored, the terrified tabby hid under beds and couches, and when the opportunity arose, escaped out of a cracked door.

Beside herself, Sandra hung up "Lost Pet" flyers and searched every secluded hiding spot in the neighborhood. And, she visited Animal Control, which proved to be a life-changing experience.

At the time, cats were only held for three days after being impounded. After that, a lucky few might be pulled for adoption by one of the area's hard-working but overburdened rescue organizations. The vast majority, however, would be euthanized to make space for the next cats in a seemingly endless cycle of homeless, unwanted pets. As Sandra passed cage after cage, one tiny kitten, soaking wet and all alone, cried and reached out as she passed, reminding her of Lazarus the night her son found the orange tabby in the thunderstorm. It broke her heart.

Sandra didn't find Lazarus on that trip to Animal Control, but she did leave on a mission. "There was no way I could bring all of those cats home without my husband noticing," she remarked, but maybe there was something she could do to prevent so many animals from being born unwanted in the first place.

After much research, Sandra found a program that had proven to be successful in other cities, and set out to emulate it. In 2005 Spay Baton Rouge was born to help make spaying and neutering affordable to pet owners who otherwise couldn't afford this important but often cost prohibitive procedure for their pets. Since then, the organization has helped to spay or neuter over 15,600 cats and dogs in the Baton Rouge area, including both people's owned pets and stray, feral, and community animals.

PS: Sandra did eventually find Lazarus and brought him home, where he lived and was loved for the rest of his life.